The European Union and Austria

On the 26th of May, the people of my country, Austria, will be going to the polls and electing the members of the next European Parliament. With us, many other people all over Europe will vote, and in this way, we will change the future of the European Union. At the moment, we as Europeans are facing many challenges and difficulties. The Brexit (or whatever it’s going to be?), the immigration issue and climate change problems are just the tip of the iceberg. All of these things could be solved easier if the European Union would work together properly – but currently, that’s not the case. Right-wing and anti-European parties are taking the lead in more and more countries and are trying to achieve the best for their country. No matter what, it will cost another one. In my opinion, nationalistic ideas are the biggest threat to the European project. For the newly elected European Parliament, the greatest challenge will be to reunite all countries and define common goals.

Being from Austria, a country where there’s a right-wing party part of the government, I can say that a lot of people have difficulties with the European Union and don’t like the idea that “someone in Brussels” makes their laws and tells them what to do. But on the other hand, there are many Austrians who are proud and happy to be part of this united Europe, and they accept that there are some things going wrong (and need to be solved!), and they don’t give up on believing in this project. It’s mostly young and educated people that see and get to experience the advantages of the European Union. Older people appreciate it primarily because of the peace it brought to our continent.

As I’m part of a European project, by doing this volunteer service, I can see the advantages first-hand. In this project on Madeira, we currently volunteer from many different countries, living and working together, making new friends and sharing experiences – something that wouldn’t be possible without the EU. It gives us all the chance to abandon our prejudices (and believe me, there are many!), learns to respect other cultures and traditions and appreciate the diversity of Europe.

If you ask me what kind of Europe I’d like to see in 50 years, it’s an easy answer. A united but diverse one. Peaceful countries are working together, not against each other. A renewed constitution as a basis for a new European Union that is ready to face all the challenges that will come in the future.

Project co-financed by ERASMUS+.

Jana Berchtold
Students’ Union Austrian Volunteer